Cotinus obovatus

American Smoke Tree


Pine and James Streets, Lancaster PA


This specimen is larger than the “smoke tree” shrubs (Cotinus coggygria, a Euro-China native) that are more commonly seen.  Cotinus obovatus -- native to the Southern U.S. -- is not as often used in the landscape.


The actual flowers of this plant are small and not showy.  But the structures that hold the flowers are covered with hairs, and these hairs are the “smoke” for which the tree is named. (Identification of this specimen is not 100%.)


This amazing species has in the past been used so extensively as a source of yellow dye that during the Civil War it almost became extinct in its native habitats.